Fr. Albert Haase offers a 5-step Examen that anyone can do.
Over a decade ago, Fr. Albert Haase, OM, a spiritual director, author of nine books on spiritual formation (Franciscan Media, InterVarsity Press, Paraclete Press) and the presenter on four bestselling DVDs (Paraclete Press), began practicing St. Ignatius of Loyola’s daily Examen, a series of reflective questions asked at key times of the day. Today, Fr. Albert says he is “hooked.”
It’s part of his daily practice, and Fr. Albert says, one he encourages others to take on—especially during Lent. It’s not hard to understand why—especially since the Examen is an antidote to our rush-rush lives, which often leave us too busy for God.
“The Examen has clearly taught me that God is closer to me than I ever thought or imagined,” Fr. Albert says. “God comes into my life daily through events, people, my deepest feelings, and my most creative thoughts. God has a voracious enthusiasm not only to communicate with me but also to enter more deeply into my life.”
Practicing the Examen, Fr. Albert says, has “raised my awareness of God’s presence in my everyday, humdrum life. It has heightened my God-sensitivity.”
Fr. Albert says the practice has transformed him into a “God-seeker and God-finder,” as Meister Eckhart calls it.
“Most of us don’t live with the awareness and sensitivity to God’s presence which is promoted by the Examen.” Instead, Fr. Albert says, most of us “are content to live on auto-pilot. We go through our day without reflection. The more we practice the Examen, the more we can shut off auto-pilot and have a conscious encounter with God.”
And if there’s anything to focus on during Lent, certainly shutting off our busy auto-pilot and seeking and finding God at work in the midst of “everyday, humdrum life” should be high on that list.
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Though many of us are familiar with the basic end-of-day “where did I feel close to God?” or “where did I feel distant” type questions of the Examen, Fr. Albert suggests we take it a bit deeper, while reminding us that even St. Ignatius believed in flexibility when it came to this practice. (While St. Ignatius promoted a twice-a-day [midday and bed-time] Examen, he acknowledged a once-a-day, 10- to 15-minute practice worked as well.)
After choosing a time (most do this at the end of the day), Fr. Albert suggests working through the five steps—but, not without flexibility. “The benefits of the practice are reaped in daily fidelity to it, not simply in getting through each of the five individual steps,” Fr. Albert says.
1. Gratitude. Simple enough: “We look over our present life and thank God for any gifts, graces, or blessings we have received.” But, Fr. Albert cautions, “We should not be too quick to move on from this step, since growth in gratitude is growth in the conscious awareness of God’s generosity to us.” Some days, Fr. Albert says, his entire practice is spent in gratitude.
2. Petition to the Holy Spirit. “Since the Spirit is the flint and fuel of godly enthusiasm and the One who transforms us into little Christs (literally: Christians),” Fr. Albert says, “we ask the Holy Spirit to open up our eyes, ears, and hearts as we review the events of the past few hours since our last practice of the Examen.”
3. Review. This, Fr. Albert says, “forms the heart and soul of the Examen. We survey and probe the immediate past hours since the last time we practiced the Examen. Event by event, hour by hour, minute by minute.” Fr. Albert suggests asking ourselves:
- Where was God speaking to me and challenging me?
- How was the Spirit inviting me to be more Christlike?
- When and in what circumstances was God bestowing graces, gifts, and blessings upon me?
- How was the Spirit asking me to be lovingly present in the situation in which I found myself?
- How was God asking me to humbly serve the people in front of me?
4. Forgiveness. During this step, Fr. Albert says, “We express sorrow and ask forgiveness for still living on autopilot, unaware and unconscious of God’s surrounding presence in the daily routines. This step is not supposed to be a monologue in which we scold and criticize ourselves for our insensitivity or put ourselves on a guilt trip. Rather, this step is intended to be a dialogue between God and ourselves in which we encounter a merciful, loving God who is enthusiastic about being in a relationship with us.”
5. Renewal. As we end our daily Examen practice, Fr. Albert suggests we “look over our upcoming daily schedule as we now know it and anticipate the approaching hours or events where we need to be particularly attentive to the pending manifestation of the divine presence or call.” To do this, he suggests asking ourselves:
- Where might the God of disguise surprise me?
- What situation might the Spirit use to mold me ever closer into a little Christ?
- How could God possibly use this particular person or this planned meeting to spark my godly enthusiasm into flame?
It’s in this final step, Fr. Albert says that “we are recommitting ourselves to switching our lives off autopilot.” And here we gain the big “payoff” of the practice: “consciousness, awareness, and sensitivity to the presence of God in life.”